U.S. Hitting A Ceiling On Internet Households

Most non-Web users have no intentions of linking up, a new survey says.
The vast majority of U.S. households that are not online have no interest in the Web, an indication that Internet penetration has stalled, a market research firm said Friday.

A survey of 1,000 U.S. homes showed that about 36 percent of U.S. households were not online, and only 2 percent intended to subscribe to an Internet service this year, according to Parks Associates. The percent of households without Web access extrapolated to 39 million homes.

"We're starting to hit a wall as far as Internet penetration goes," John Barrett, director of research at Parks Associates, said. "We're getting down to the people who just don't want it."

Cost was a factor in only 4 percent of the households not connected to the Web. Thirty-one percent said they didn't need it because they had access to the Internet at work, 18 percent said they weren't interested in anything on the Web, and 8 percent said they weren't sure how to use the Web.

Thirty-nine percent chose the "other reason" category on the survey.

"That's usually the consumer's way of saying they're not interested," Barrett said.

Based on the survey, the research firm projects only a 1 percent increase in overall Internet penetration this year to 64 percent of U.S. households.

Among the negatives of not having these people online is that they cannot contribute to the national dialogue on the Web, Barrett said. Beyond e-commerce, the Internet has become a forum for sharing ideas and opinions on many issues affecting individuals and the nation as a whole.

"It's a national dialogue that a lot of people by definition can't participate in today," Barrett said.

In addition, offline households don't have easy access to information that could help them find better jobs and prices on goods and services.

"If you don't have access to the roads of information, you are economically disadvantaged," Barrett said.

In other findings, 42 percent of U.S. households currently have broadband connections. Four percent have narrowband and plan to upgrade to broadband this year, while 18 percent have narrowband and don't intend to upgrade.